2006 Summer/Fall Volume 6 No. 2

Five Ingredients to Just Git’r Done When Things Are Really, Really Busy

By Elton Tamplin

This time of year with outdoor festivals and an increase in building contracts, portable restroom operators put in a lot of overtime and need to work as fast as possible to meet all their commitments. If a key employee gets sick or injured during the rush to get things done, then the pressure only builds on everyone else.

Compounding the work for managers is the fact that seasonal employees may be less skilled, less experienced and less motivated than the year-round employees.

The pressure of having too many things to do and no idea how to get them all done can make strong, clearheaded people feel weak and confused. The pressure of having someone tell you to just “Git ‘r done!” only adds more pressure, confusion, and stress. Demanding “Git ‘r done!” can make people less successful and less mentally prepared to do what needs to be done.

Few people actively search out crisis, but all of us will face it in our lives. And when we have to face it at work, it can bring out the best in us, or the worst. We learned about crisis when Katrina hit last year, but we also learned how we can get through it.

When presenting your employees with a big challenge, ask yourself if they have everything they need to succeed. And, if not, how can you provide it? The 6 key ingredients they need to “Git ‘r done!” are:

1. Opportunity—Do they have the time and ability to do it?
2. Understanding—Do they know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it?
3. Organization—Do they know what to do first, second, third, etc.
4. Focus—Since it’s nearly impossible to do two things at once, will they be able to concentrate on the most important task?
5. Motivation—Do they know why they are doing it and why it is important to them?
6. Be Thankful

I saw the success of these ingredients at work late last summer in our service center in Texas. We were faced with assembling the largest number of PolyJohn restrooms we had ever seen due to Hurricane Katrina. Waste treatment plants were wiped out across the entire Gulf Coast, thousands of people became refugees when they had to flee their homes, and this all led to a sudden astronomical need for portable restroom facilities. Orders were coming in at the rate of about 1,000 units per day.

So, how did we handle it?

1. We Gained Commitment
Number one, we gave our employees the opportunity they needed to succeed. We made sure they had all the tools, equipment, space, and supplies to keep working at top speed.

Immediately our employees went on a 24/7 work schedule. Everyone worked 12-hour shifts with no time off for the Labor Day holiday. The work quickly overwhelmed our regular staff, so we hired some temporary workers who had worked for us before, plus one who had become a refugee as a result of damage to his home in New Orleans.

2. We Clearly Communicated
Second, we talked about the problem so that everyone had an understanding of what was needed. We told them how many orders we had coming in and we worked with them to create a schedule that would make everyone successful. Training was only an issue for the one new worker who was from New Orleans. We assigned him to work with an experienced crew so he could learn from them as they went.

We made sure they understood that great opportunities are often disguised as problems. Although they would be missing a lot of family time over the next month or two, the checks from all the additional work could help them do something really special for their families once the crisis was over.

3. We Made a Plan
Third, we organized the shifts, work areas, and priorities so that everyone knew what needed to be done and in what order they had to be finished. Disorganization is a thief that will rob you of your time, self-esteem, and safety. Even though the team was working full bore, they kept their areas clean and organized because this allowed them to work faster and more safely. We were filling up the dumpster on a daily basis with packaging and scrap, so we ordered extra pick up service. We scheduled four employees during the day when shipments were received and trucks were loaded, and only two at night when the only job was assembly.

We couldn’t have kept up our pace if we hadn’t been receiving daily truckloads of supplies from our manufacturing plant in Whiting. They were also operating 24/7 to keep us supplied.

4. We Stayed Focused
And fourth, we made sure our employees could focus on the most important tasks of assembly work. We didn’t give them any extra jobs to do during the shift. Each shift stayed a little longer at the end to make sure the place was picked up and each new shift had everything they needed to focus on the job ahead.

We have a great crew that has been doing assembly for several years. At a time of crisis, you could really see how their experience paid off. They got into a zone where every movement seemed auto-matic with no wasted motion. They had their music playing and they were moving so fast that it seemed like they were making it a game or a sport. If assembly is a sport, these guys are the world record holders.

5. We Were Motivated
We didn’t have to worry too much about motivation. Everyone involved in the effort saw the news and understood what was at stake for the people of the Gulf area. Our regular assembly workers gained new significance and pride in their work as they realized how important it was to the hurricane victims. Having a refugee from the storm on their team, made the con-nection even clearer.

6. We Thanked Everyone
We thanked the guys by showing them that we understood and appreciated how hard they were working. Most days we bought their lunch. We have a grill at the ware-house and our production manager Glenn Lents barbequed burgers and chicken. On some days we order pizzas.

I also called a pizza parlor in Whiting and had them send over 10 extra large pies for the crew that was keeping us supplied back in Indiana. You’d be surprised how much a goodwill gesture like that will boost everybody’s spirits and motivation.

Lessons learned
If you have a big event—or heaven forbid—a crisis situation this summer, remember the six things every worker needs to do his or her best. Make sure you provide it, and then see how your crew can impress you with their ability to “Git ‘r done!”

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